Agenda item

Questions from Non-Executive Members


Councillor Speight asked the following question to the Portfolio Holder for Finance.


Is the Portfolio Holder for finance completely happy that a robust process has taken place to ensure that Thurrock Council gets best value from its pending commission to PWC and that PWC have delivered value for money in work they have already carried out for the council?


Councillor Snell confirmed the Council has assessed this procurement against various options, in-house, external and hybrid and then where to go to market or use a framework to get the level of support for a best value approach. It is securing a 5.25 million pound of recurring savings in 24/25, and starting to build up 2025/26 also.  It is also securing focus on cross cutting savings which are generally more challenging and support in managing budget savings and change at pace.  Fundamentally the work is essential at the start of what will be a series of challenging budget rounds in order to benefit early from good practises


It should be noted PWC proposal offers a 10% discount from the published framework rates and is the most economically advantageous solution to the Council.


Councillor Speight responded that he is delighted that the Portfolio Holder is confident that things are going to work out. Councillor Speight requested that it is shared with the Councillors the amount PWC have been paid for the two contracts for the work carried out in July, August and September and explained exactly what it is they were working on.


Councillor Snell responded that both contracts were around £170,000 and the following work was completed by PWC.

  1. Held a series of workshops with SLT to shape out future high level strategic operating model for the Council. Documented outcomes from the discussions in a ‘future strategic operating model’ summary document, for wider discussion and further iteration.
  2. Brought experience from elsewhere to assess wide-ranging service volumetrics (eg performance and productivity data). Identified tangible opportunities for improvement across all directorates. Established service areas which should be higher and lower priority areas for operating model changes.
  3. Provided check and challenge for existing Thurrock Council business cases, to establish any further opportunities for improvement and financial savings.
  4. Identified and documented savings opportunities, which services could then take forward in both FY24/25 and FY25/26. These would then need to be built out as full business cases.
  5. Calculated benefits associated with change opportunities and plans for delivery. Supported with areas where the Council previously had challenges in documenting financial benefits and plans for delivery (eg transformation of customer contact management).

Councillor Speight asked a second question to the Leader.


In light of the call-ins being submitted tonight and their subsequent management going forwards, is the leader satisfied that the process in place to appoint senior management is robust and effective and gives the council the very best opportunity to recruit the best available people to senior posts?


The Leader responded that the Council following the General Services approval of the new senior structure of the council, worked with Tile Hill a specialist executive agency to launch a campaign to attract high quality candidates. Tile Hill were briefed on the Council’s requirements by the Chief Executive. Tile Hill provided a long list of candidates received by Commissioners and Senior Officers. A technical assessment was completed with external specialists. Following the technical assessment, a shortlist was recommended. Those shortlisted completed a psychometric assessment and the results were shared with the General Services Committee prior to interviews. Over the 2 days of interviews all candidates were seen by 3 panels. A Stakeholder panel comprising Members from all political parties, any relevant stakeholders and chaired by a member of SLT. A workforce panel that comprised of a range of staff, representatives from the staff network and trade union representatives. The third panel was the General Services Panel made up of the Leader and Deputy Leader from the majority and opposition parties, the Commissioners and the Chief Executive. The General Services Committee appointed candidates to each of the senior roles. The process was robust and appropriate and representative of best practice at this level. Commissioners also commended the process.


Councillor Speight responded that at the Council there are at least two interim Directors making important decisions about the future of the borough who were not judged competent enough to make the shortlist. There are also Directors who have been dismissed by the Chief Executive still sitting at their desks making decisions. The Councillor who has accepted blame for the financial catastrophe has now been appointed to the watchdog holding the Council decision making to account. Councillor Speight queried if the Leader really believed in the integrity of the administration and its capacity to oversee an effective and fruitful recovery plan when the clear perception of the public is that you are rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic, whilst reserving places for a select few on the lifeboats.


The Leader responded that the recruitment process was robust, open and transparent. At the General Services Committee everyone had agreed with what was said. The Council has recruited the best people that they can and the Leader stated that he is looking forward to them starting work and helping to create the Council the people of Thurrock want.